What is childhood happiness anyway? Is it a child who runs in the wild barefoot with his/her animals without a destination? Or a child who wakes up every day with the same routine following a stable structure dictated by his/her environment?
Is happiness a wish or a want or a thought that one can create in our minds and emotions in early childhood? Does a child learn instinctively to be happy or to be sad?
Most parents and caretakers want their child to be peaceful - calm - receptive, and happy, but instincts may not be enough. Most often, children become what they are by imitating what’s happening around them. If they see laughter all the time, they will laugh a lot; if they see fighting all the time, they will start fighting if they see indifference all the time, they may have a hard time communicating.
But most of us adults did not learn how to teach a child how to become emotionally intelligent; most of us grew up without learning social and emotional skills. How could we break this paradigm and help the new generations become aware of their emotions and learn to self-regulate? We can do this, by learning how to become aware of our reactions to others and develop self-care rituals to ease our anxieties and life burdens.
If we as parents can practice calm, then the chances are that our little ones will follow. Creating a healthy environment for a child is more about learning to be present when we are with them, thus creating trust from the child that we are listening to them.
Parents are constantly pulled in many directions, and at times, it seems as if you are barely hanging on to a thin rope about to break. And more often than not, parents do not give the time they need to balance their own emotions and worries. We can all learn to do that; age does not matter - what matters is acknowledging and trying to do something about it.
Practicing self-care through meditation, yoga, exercises, dance, reading, playing with your child, listening to music, playing with your animals, or any soothing activity will enable parents to carry their days with more wisdom and compassion. This practice is what I believe creates the pillars of happiness for children, when a child sees their caretakers balanced and calm; they feel safe and happy.
While having dinner with 9 senior college students about to graduate, who came from diverse backgrounds and upbringings, I asked them what made them happy or what happiness meant to them. They said fulfillment, finding peace within, remaining in the present moment and relishing the here and now, doing service for others, easing their anxiety, having a loving support system around them, paying attention to each little thing they have. But they all seemed nervous about their future; would they find happiness as they described after graduating? Well, I said every time you fear, remember what happiness means to you…. and make sure you practice it, especially during parenthood.
Do you know what happiness means to me? Seeing my loved ones find happiness and helping one child or teen at a time learn to be calm and peaceful.
What does happiness mean to you?